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P-Plate Restrictions

words - Gautam Sharma
If you're a P-plater in NSW, it might be a good idea to plough through the RTA's 102-page prohibited vehicle list or you could end up being pinged seven demerit points and $375. New rules introduced in Australia's most populous state mean P-platers w

Wheels Magazine
September, 2005

Also off limits are "certain high-performance six-cylinder engine vehicles". These include the Porsche 911/Boxster, Nissan 350Z, BMW M3, Honda NSX and Mercedes SLK350.

Critics of the new system point to the inconsistencies in the rules -- whereby P-platers are prohibited from driving several low-powered turbo/supercharged cars, yet still get their hands on a number of high-performance four- and six-cylinder cars.

For example, P-plate drivers are well within their rights to pedal the 184kW Alfa Romeo 147 GTA, 184kW Audi TT V6 and 190kW Holden Commodore SV6. Or, if they like (and are able to afford it), they can slide in behind the wheel of the highly rapid Lotus Exige and Honda S2000.

Conversely, the new rules prohibit P-platers from driving 'low-blow' supercharged and turbo offerings from Audi, Saab, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz that are designed to deliver good tractability, rather than neck-snapping performance. It could also be argued that these vehicles also provide high levels of active and passive safety -- making them ideally suited to inexperienced drivers.

Victoria has a far simpler -- and more logical -- system whereby any vehicle with a power-to-weight ratio of greater than 125kW/tonne or engine capacity of more than 3.5 litres/tonne is off limits for P-platers. This ensures that only genuine high-performance vehicles are excluded.

Another drawback with the NSW RTA's regime is that the prohibited-vehicle list will be "continually revised". This means it's a constant work in progress and, therefore, P-platers can't assume the vehicle they drive won't end up on the list, even if it isn't on it currently.

"There's no perfect formula, but the NSW system has too many exclusions and exemptions," says NRMA vehicle policy specialist Jack Haley. "We agree with the philosophy, but there has to be a simpler formula."

Haley proposes a system where P-platers could have access to any vehicle with a four- or five-star NCAP rating. He adds: "We also suggest motorists select vehicles with DSC (dynamic stability control) wherever possible. Studies show that DSC has been effective in lowering crash numbers."

Haley also advocates improved driver training for L- and P-platers, albeit focusing on attitude and road sense than skid control and braking drills -- as these can instil a false sense of security.

Wheels safety expert John Cadogan echoes Haley's views: "The rules don't make sense - a 15-year-old Falcon XR8 or HSV ClubSport makes less power than a current Falcon XT or Commodore SV6 (which are accessible to P-platers).

"Also, there's no proven correlation between power and crash risk. It's not power that kills, it's hitting a solid object -- and that can happen at 80km/h in a Corolla."

Cadogan says the rule makers should instead focus on what really causes young drivers to crash. He proposes: a robust eduction campaign for P-platers highlighting the risk factors, and limiting passengers for the first six months

For more info on the prohibited-vehicle list, go to

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Published : Monday, 29 August 2005

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